Marathon Mom: As a single mom, can I train for a marathon while raising my family?

Dear Marathon Mom,
I used to be a runner…and then I had kids. I hate even writing that, since it seems like such a cliché, but that is exactly what happened to me. I have a 5-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. I was still able to run with my son in a stroller until he was about 18 months old, and then he stopped enjoying being in the stroller for that long of a time. By the time I had my daughter, I wasn’t running at all any more. I’d planned to pick it up before she was one, but that didn’t happen. I’m finally ready to dedicate myself to getting back into shape and feeling confident…but I’m not sure when or how I’m going to fit running into my life, since I don’t have a partner to split the childcare load with. Any ideas?

Single and Desperate to Run

Dear Single and Desperate to Run,
Running is funny like that; it’s so easy to fall out of the habit, yet so hard to get back into it. Of course, having a partner to watch the kids while you go out for a few miles is convenient, but it’s not the only way to fit running into your day. It sounds like you’ve made up your mind to reintroduce it to your life, though, so cheers to that! Now the hard part–how?

I’ll start with the most obvious solution: a babysitter. I realize that paying the neighbor to watch your children a few hours a week so you can run can add up quickly, but not all babysitters have to cost money.  Do you have another parent friend who wants to get back into shape (or just wants a few hours a week to be kid-free and get some things done) that you could exchange babysitting services with? Many parents fail to think of this solution, but few would turn it down if offered. After all, you both win with some free time–something many parents only dream of.

You mentioned that your son didn’t enjoy the jogging stroller after 18 months, but that doesn’t mean your daughter will feel the same way. Since you already have the stroller, perhaps you could try taking her for a run with you while your son is at school?

Depending on your financial situation and feelings about running indoors, joining a gym may work for you too. You could log your miles on an indoor track or treadmill while your little ones play just a few feet away from you. If the idea of working out with strangers in a gym setting is too unappealing to you (and I wouldn’t blame you), there’s also the option of saving up and getting a new or used treadmill for your home. Although an expensive cost upfront, it does provide you the flexibility to run any time, day or night, and still be home to keep an eye on your children.

Those are my best ideas. If it were me (and it will be in just a couple of years), I would first try to swap babysitting services with another parent, because nothing beats running outdoors. The fresh air and time spent with Mother Nature will do your mind and soul good, helping relieve some of the daily stresses, and return you to your children a calmer, happier, and healthier mama.

Best of luck!
Audra Rundle